Celebrating a Red-Letter Day for Indian singers

Union Minister for Commerce & Industries, Shri Piysuh Goyal, felicitated by Sanjay Tandon of ISRA and singer Anup Jalota. Looking on is Vikram Mehra of Saregama. Photo: Pritam Sharma

April 23 was a Red-Letter Day for Indian singers, not just the ones today but also those who have retired or are no more (their legal descendants had reason to celebrate). Singers will now get royalties due to them both for their published work and that which is performed, from both India and overseas.

Many leading singers and the Indian music industry bigwigs hailed Union Minister for Commerce & Industries, Shri Piyush Goyal’s efforts and support for arriving at this watershed agreement between singers and music labels. Earlier, singers were ranked as “live instruments” akin to a violin or a tabla and therefore not entitled to any remuneration after recording their songs!

The Indian Music Industry (IMI), the consortium of music labels, was represented by its chairman, Vikram Mehra (of Saregama, the oldest music company) and the Indian Singers’ Rights Association (ISRA) was represented by its chairman, Padma Shri Anup Jalota, and founder-CEO Sanjay Tandon. Chairman Emeritus, ISRA, Asha Bhosle, coukl not make it at the last moment as she was indisposed.

The minister had been in tireless discussion with these office-bearers for over four years and stated, “Now Indian music industry can proudly say hum saath saath hai. We have truly implemented the philosophy of our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi-ji’s clarion call, “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas” along with Sab ka Vishwas (trust) and Sab ka Prayas (efforts).”

The minister said, “Though the Copyright Amendment Act was passed in both houses of Parliament way back in 2012, it wasn’t properly implemented. It was our government’s efforts in consultation with the music labels and ISRA that resulted in the single remuneration system of receiving royalties from India and worldwide.  25 percent will now be paid to the singers and we are hopeful that it will be a transparent process.”

The minister smilingly accepted his felicitation and stated, “I have only done my duty, for when you choose us as your representatives, we must do so. I have done nothing special as the singers were only asking for their haq (rights). I must thank all the music industry representatives who met and discussed with me for presenting their respective viewpoints freely and for the positive spirit with which they all came together for this.”

He continued, “Music has always been therapeutic for all of us and our PM just tells us, his team, to do the right thing for all and not just a section of people. I must add that this agreement has actually become operational from October 2022 and what we have achieved so far is not even the tip of the iceberg in terms of amounts. I was also especially concerned about the injustice to old singers, and those who were earning well at one time, but can no longer do so.”

The minister had also vetoed a fixed ceiling for royalties, but at the same time, cautioned ISRA to keep a reserve fund for needy artistes fallen on bad times, and on this, Anup Jalota declared, “On this platform, I hereby state that I will pledge 10 percent of whatever royalties I get for this. And I must inform the hon’ble minister that we already have a Welfare Fund like he stated in place, and also something similar for musicians.”

Anup Jalota, Sanjay Tandon and Mohammed Rafi’s son Shahid Rafi at the event. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

Thanking the Union Minister, Anup Jalota added, “It is purely due to sincere efforts of Shri Piyush Goyal ji that hamare (singers) acche din aa gaye. After decades of perseverance, finally I have received my royalties. One such gladdening example is that now even the royalties for the late Mohammed Rafi’s songs will be paid to his son, Shahid Rafi, who has himself sung and will receive his own royalties as well. Earlier, one could keep a track of the sales of music via sales of musicassettes and CDs, but in today’s world of streaming music on the OTT platforms, when the song is in our pocket on mobile, the ISRA will take responsibility to see that the royalty is rightly passed to the deserving singers and musicians.”

Anup fervently thanked the minister, letting on that despite his busy schedule, the latter had never said ‘No!’ to a single one of innumerable meetings. “This government is known for taking all the right decisions, as we can see from what they have done in Uttar Pradesh!” he quipped. “And it’s a fact that a song as evergreen as Baharon phool barsao from Suraj needed Rafi-saab and not, say, a driver, to make it so. The songs Lata Mangeshkar-ji rendered could not have been sung by, say, a maid. Whenever we hear a song, whether from a film or not, and of any genre, the first person we notice is the singer. With this happy move, both music companies and singers will benefit!”

Sanjay Tandon added, “I am grateful to Hon’ble Piyush Goyal ji for his immense support to enable singers of India to receive royalties today. On this historic occasion, I am remembering Lata (Mangeshkar)-ji who had, in the 1960s, initiated the idea that singers should get royalties. I am sure she is around and blessing us all. It is great to see the getting together of all music labels and artistes at last on one platform. It will now enable the music industry as a whole to grow and prosper to the level that it should. This historic agreement should be music for all.”

He added, “It’s a long war and not an easy one. More music is played and heard in India but the sum we collect as royalties is a mere 2 percent of the figure collected in the USA because implementation is not there. The law is technically with us, and it is we at ISRA who must implement it, not the government. Most radio stations, OTT platforms, restaurants and hotels do not pay, and also ask how many people they will have to pay as the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) and PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) also have to be paid. But if that is the international law, it must be done. I feel that if everyone pays what they must, we can collect Rs. 20000 crore, of which we have only managed a tiny fraction until now. Also, we are also taking up the cause of the musicians’ rights in the industry, and very soon, ISRA will be known as ISMRA, with M standing for musicians.”

Vikram Mehra stated, “Indians listen to more music every week than the Americans. IMI and ISRA have now arrived at an understanding and have developed a fair distribution of moneys that will be a benchmark for the world. Now even the restaurants, radio stations and OTT platforms will have to give royalty to ISRA. As per our estimates, that will result in distribution of thousands of crore in today’s times. This shows the potential of implementing this powerful mechanism.” He added, “Music is India’s biggest soft power. And for the Indian music industry to become a global force, the collaboration of all stakeholders is the key.”

The luminaries together on stage for the historic occasion. Photo: Pritam Sharma

Anuradha Paudwal, Alka Yagnik, Hariharan, Udit Narayan, Pankaj Udhas, Kumar Sanu, Roopkumar Rathod, Shahid Rafi, Talat Aziz, Shabbir Kumar, Dilshad Shabbir Shaikh(Shabbir’s son and a composer, musician as well as singer), Jolly Mukherjee, Shaan, Kunal Ganjawala, Salim Merchant and Aditi Singh Sharma were present to celebrate and thank all those responsible for the happy turn of events.

Pankaj Udhas summed up the occasion by saying, “Today is a memorable afternoon. We had lost hopes but now finally it is a very happy feeling that we will be getting our dues after this historic announcement.” And Talat Aziz added, “I have noticed one thing about Shri Piyush Goyal-saab. He is very quick on the uptake and is ruthlessly efficient. It is sheer pleasure interacting with him.”

The music companies were also represented on the occasion by Mukesh Desai from T-Series, Devraj Sanyal from Universal Music, Kumar Taurani of Tips Music, Mandar Thakur of Times Music and others.



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